Much on the line for players on bubble
A position-by-position look at the roster ahead of last preseason game, final cut
Most of the Ravens starters will be on the sideline tonight, an anticlimactic return to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the organization celebrated its second Super Bowl championship in February 2013, as well as a regular-season win in 2014.
Players such as quarterback Joe Flacco, wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., rush linebacker Terrell Suggs and cornerback Jimmy Smith have turned their attention to the regularseason opener Sept. 11 against the Buffalo Bills. They are unlikely to be in uniform as the Ravens (3-0) close out t he preseason against the winless New Orleans Saints.
For the players battling for a handful of jobs at the back end of the Ravens roster, there is plenty at stake. NFL teams must cut their rosters from 75 players to 53 by Saturday afternoon, meaning tonight’s game is a final opportunity to make an impression on the Ravens or other teams that will scour the waiver wire in the days ahead looking for potential fits.
“We have some good choices and some tough choices, and that’s a good problem to have,” coach John Harbaugh said.
Several members of the Ravens’ 11-man draft class, including defensive end Willie Henry, wide receiver Keenan Reynolds and cornerback Maurice Canady, have to secure roster spots. Veterans such as offensive guard Vladimir Ducasse and linebacker Chris Carter are hoping to prove they’re worthy of making the final 53. Preseason finale Tonight, 8 TV: Chs. 11, 7, Comcast SportsNet Radio: 97.9 FM, 1090 AM
Many roster decisions have already been made after a month of training camp practices and three preseason games. Injuries, though, could affect the roster, and the Ravens still have a few unsettled spots, including along the offensive line, at inside linebacker and in the secondary.
“A lot of decisions have been made,” Harbaugh said. “And then there are a number of decisions that still have to be made. We talk about those every day. Every second of every day we think about it and try to do the right thing for our team.”
Here is a position-by-position look at where the roster stands: Quarterbacks How many they’ll keep: 2 Making the cut: Flacco, Ryan Mallett Missing out: Josh Johnson Skinny: Harbaugh said after the second preseason game that Mallett and Johnson were battling for the reserve job, but indications are Mallett will be the lone backup. Mallett fits the offense better and has more recent starting experience. Running backs How many they’ll keep: 5 Making the cut: Justin Forsett, Buck Allen, Kenneth Dixon, Terrance West, Kyle Juszczyk (fullback) Missing out: Stephen Houston, Lorenzo Taliaferro (physically-unable-to-perform list) Skinny: Keeping five backs squeezes the team at another position, but would the Ravens walk away from a respected veteran in Forsett, or a 2015 fourth-round pick in Allen? West, who has been among their more impressive players this summer, appears safe. Dixon is sidelined for the next couple of weeks because of a torn MCL. Wide receivers How many they’ll keep: 7 Making the cut: Steve Smith Sr., Kamar Aiken, Mike Wallace, Breshad Perriman, Michael Campanaro, Chris Moore, Jeremy Butler Missing out: Reynolds Skinny: Seven wide receivers seems exces- Chris Matthews, Keenan sive, but Campanaro is the team’s best option at punt returner and Butler has been the most consistent pass catcher all summer. Reynolds, the former Navy quarterback, has come on in practice in recent weeks, but he’s struggled as a returner and been outplayed by the other receivers. Tight ends How many they’ll keep: 3 Making the cut: Crockett Gillmore, Maxx Williams, Dennis Pitta Missing out: Benjamin Watson (injured reserve), Nick Boyle (reserve-suspended list), Darren Waller (reserve-suspended list), Daniel Brown Skinny: Pitta played in just seven games over the past three seasons and missed most of the summer with a broken finger. With Watson out for the season after tearing an Achilles tendon, the Ravens need Pitta to produce. Brown could sneak onto the roster if the team doesn’t think Pitta or Williams will be ready for Week1. Offensive linemen How many they’ll keep: 8 Making the cut: LT Ronnie Stanley, LG John Urschel, CJeremy Zuttah, RGMarshal Yanda, RT Rick Wagner, C-G Ryan Jensen, G-TAlex Lewis, OTDe’Ondre Wesley Missing out: T Blaine Clausell, G Vladimir Ducasse, T James Hurst, C Matt Skura Skinny: In a perfect world, the Ravens would keep nine offensive linemen. However, the versatility of Lewis, who is the top reserve at tackle and guard, and Jensen, who can play center and guard, should allow the team to carry eight. There is a battle for that presumed final spot among Wesley, Ducasse and Hurst. Defensive linemen How many they’ll keep: 6 Making the cut: Brandon Williams, Timmy Jernigan, Lawrence Guy, Brent Urban, Carl Davis, Willie Henry Missing out: Bronson Kaufusi (injured reserve), Kapron Lewis-Moore, Michael Pierce Skinny: Urban, Davis and Henry haven’t distinguished themselves this summer, but they are all probably safe given the team’s investment in them. Lewis-Moore has had a The versatility of Alex Lewis, left, the top reserve at tackle and guard, and Ryan Jensen (66), who can play center and guard, make them good fits for the Ravens. Matt Skura could miss the cut. solid summer, but there might not be room for the team to keep seven defensive linemen. Pierce should land on the practice squad if he’s not claimed on waivers. Outside linebackers How many they’ll keep: 5 Making the cut: Terrell Suggs, Elvis Dumervil, Albert McClellan, Za’Darius Smith, Matthew Judon Missing out: Brennen Beyer, Chris Carter, Victor Ochi Skinny: Harbaugh said Smith’s sprained ankle isn’t serious, so the Ravens should be able to get by with five outside linebackers. Rookie Kamalei Correa figures to play on the outside, too. Carter still has a shot to make the team because of his special teams play. Ochi is a raw but intriguing pass rusher. The Ravens would do well to sneak him onto the practice squad. Inside linebackers How many they’ll keep: 4 Making the cut: C.J. Mosley, Zachary Orr, Kamalei Correa, Anthony Levine Sr. Missing out: Arthur Brown, Patrick Onwuasor Skinny: Keeping only four inside linebackers is risky, but McClellan can move inside in a pinch. If Brown, a 2013 second-round pick, makes the roster, it would be because of special teams. Levine’s ability to play multiple positions and excel on special teams makes him an asset. Onwuasor is probably headed to the practice squad. Cornerbacks How many they’ll keep: 6 Making the cut: Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright, Jerraud Powers, Tavon Young, Will Davis, Maurice Canady Missing out: Kyle Arrington (injured reserve), Carrington Byndom, Sheldon Price Skinny: Powers is the favorite to win the nickel back job, although he’s struggled this preseason and has been sidelined lately by an undisclosed injury. Canady’s preseason has been marred by injuries. Davis has proved he’s healthy and should be on the roster. It might come down to a competition between Price and Canady for one spot. Safeties How many they’ll keep: 4 Making the cut: Eric Weddle, Lardarius Webb, Kendrick Lewis, Terrence Brooks Missing out: Matt Elam (injured reserve), Julian Wilson Skinny: Elam’s knee injury cleared a logjam and made an easier path for Brooks to the roster. There are questions whether Lewis, who has missed a lot of time this preseason, is a lock, but the Ravens view him as a valuable backup. Levine can play safety if the need arises. Wilson should land on the practice squad. Specialists How many they’ll keep: 3 Making the cut: K Justin Tucker, P Sam Koch, LS Morgan Cox Skinny: For the fifth straight year the Ravens will begin the season with Tucker, Koch and Cox, among the league’s best. NAVY AT A GLANCE Coach: Ken Niumatalolo, ninth season (68-37) 2015 record: 11-2, Military Bowl champion Expected finish: Second in West Division of American Athletic Conference 2016 SCHEDULE Date Opponent, Time, TV Sept. 3 Fordham, noon, CBSSN Sept. 10 UConn, 3:30 p.m., CBSSN Sept. 17 at Tulane, 7 p.m., ESPN3 Oct. 1 at Air Force, 3:30 p.m., CBSSN Houston, 3 p.m., CBSSN at East Carolina, 7:30 p.m., ESPN Memphis, 3:30 p.m., CBSSN at South Florida, 7 p.m., ESPN2 Notre Dame-x, 11:30 a.m., chs. 13, 9 Tulsa, noon, CBSSN at SMU, TBA, TBA AAC champ., noon, TBA Army-y, 3 p.m., chs. 13, 9 Oct. 8 Oct. 13 Oct. 22 Oct. 28 Nov. 5 Nov. 12 Nov. 26 Dec. 3 Dec. 10